Wednesday, September 26, 2001

[ 10:36 PM ]

Just saw the two-hour pilot of Enterprise. Too early to know whether it's any good (hell, even Voyager looked pretty good out of the box). In my view, among Star Trek's more significant faults is a tendency to get formulaic and repetitive: in too many episodes in too many series, I could figure out the entire bloody plot from the promo alone, if not from the first five minutes. All I can say so far is that there is potential here, but also the potential to bollix it up. As with the new Star Wars movies, we're in the position where the audience can know more than the characters ("No, Captain. These are Klingons! Don't mess with them!"), so the suspense can get killed really quick. The challenge is going to be whether this different perspective can breathe a little life into a universe that is far from new (to be kind to it).

Haven't seen enough of the characters to form opinions of them yet, but it's clear the producers knew exactly what they were doing when they cast Jolene Blalock. Heh.

[ 10:27 PM ]

Everyone is linking to (and reacting to, usually positively) the new issue of The Onion, the first since the September 11 attack. Pace my earlier comments, I'm linking to it too. And people were worried. You know the drill. Go.

[ 2:10 PM ]

A gorgeous new movie trailer of The Fellowship of the Ring, in QuickTime 5. Yummier than the previous ones (which were in RealMedia and revealed less). Lots of interesting scenes. See Gandalf at the Bridge of Khazad-d�m ("You shall not pass!"). See Pippin bollix things up ("Fool of a Took!"). It's also clear from this trailer that Arwen has taken over the role played in the book by Glorfindel, which is by no means a bad thing -- she was underused in the books anyway. Go and watch it. Now. I'm not kidding. Yow.

Postscript. I'm impressed by the details the filmmakers are getting right. Elvish swords that glow when enemies are near, banners that get the devices right (seven stars and white tree for Elendil, red eye for Sauron). All this, picked out from 2:30 of footage! Liberties are being taken, it appears, but not in blatant contradiction to what Sindarin-speaking fanatics (ahem) would know.

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

[ 7:42 PM ]

The adult red-sided garter snakes kept me awake last night with their amorous goings on. Their cage is next to my side of the bed (have I mentioned how we're kind of short on space?) and I got quite the earful. I think it went on all bloody night. I thought they were supposed to be diurnal! At least they appear to have settled down today. Or maybe they're just worn out from all the shagging. (Well not quite. No copulatory plug on her this time, so it looks like it was just a lot of very energetic courtship.)

Sunday, September 23, 2001

[ 9:33 PM ]

Doing the blog thing � posting links and adding my own commentary � has been difficult in the wake of the WTC attacks. Too much material to process, from rumors proved false to boneheaded columnists and commentators using the attacks as a means to further their own narrow agendas, plus a fair bit of intelligent information that shines through the dreck. Even so, I think my mandate here is to track down things I find interesting because of my own idiosyncracies, not to post the same stuff every other news-focused blogger is posting. Go and read Metafiler instead for that sort of thing; my sort of thing has kind of been swept aside for the moment. I may opine if I'm suitably roused, however.

[ 9:20 PM ]

When one snake stops eating, you wonder whether it's sick. When something like half a dozen snakes refuse to eat, you start thinking that it's fall and you really should turn the heating pads back on. (Yes, you heard me. It's warm enough in here during the summer that the cages stay unheated � sometimes they were even too warm this summer!)

Saturday, September 22, 2001

[ 8:23 PM ]

A new neat trick on this site thanks to the wonders of PHP � a printer-friendly option is now available for reptile care sheets, this web log, articles and book reviews. Damn, that was easy to do.

[ 7:56 PM ]

Colin Mochrie will replace Rick Mercer on This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Colin is a favourite from both versions of Whose Line Is It Anyway? � which Florence and I know obscenely well. At least they're not likely to ask him to sing in this new gig.

[ 7:22 PM ]

My next computer may be a Mac; in fact, it may be this one. I'm increasingly annoyed by Microsquash's heavy-handedness � not so much what I have to deal with now, but rather what's on the horizon. XP. Product activation. Registering with Passport. And so on. It seems they're more interested in protecting their own interests than in pleasing their customers. This article (via FARK) seems more paranoid than most, but he's ranting about something. Meanwhile, I contemplate how to run a mixed Wintel-Mac network, and think that OS X looks quite promising . . .

Thursday, September 20, 2001

[ 8:02 AM ]

Palm released the m125 today (though it has apparently been in U.S. stores all this week). Brighthand already has a review. The m125 has the same form factor as the m100 and m105, which, while lots of people don't like it, I always thought very ergonomic, very easy to hold in your hand, even if the screen is quite a bit smaller than on other Palm handhelds. But it has a 33 MHz processor, a SD/MMC slot, and uses the m500 series cradle and accessories (except for cases and styli). I might well have bought this one if it was available when I decided to buy a PDA, instead of buying the m105 and then almost immediately replacing it with an m505. (Not that I'm unhappy with my m505, oh no, I just would have found it harder to justify the upgrade.)

Note the usual frothing at Palm Infocenter by the maniacs who want a 500 MHz 32-bit colour always-on-wireless gadget that weighs three ounces and has a battery life of 16 years, and they want it right now. Oh yeah, and it has to cost less than $200, too. Brats.

Tuesday, September 18, 2001

[ 6:17 PM ]

Refund madness continues. A letter from WestJet offering me a credit for a future flight as a result of their computer failure on August 30, which got me into Calgary six and a half hours late. The credit is somewhat more than what I paid for that portion of my flight. And I didn't even have to write a letter of complaint.

[ 10:20 AM ]

My previous web hosting company has refunded my money in its entirety, including domain name registration and one-time setup fees. I am astonished. I had expected not to get any money back at all (such was my opinion of them), and had hoped for a refund of the equivalent of ten months of service, the unused portion, but not the other fees. So, a nice surprise. Servers still didn't work, though.

[ 10:15 AM ]

The delayed impact of skipping medication strikes again. The weekend was so chaotic and busy that I missed my evening naproxen-and-misoprostol doses on both Saturday and Sunday. No immediate impact on my mobility or pain levels, then or yesterday. Woke up in considerable discomfort this morning. Every time I miss a dosage, I pay for it a couple of days later. Remind me of that next time, would you?

Monday, September 17, 2001

[ 9:00 PM ]

The glossy snake looks like a girl, and I suspect it's one of the western subspecies, either candida (Mojave) or eburnata (desert).

(There is some debate whether the glossy snakes are one species or two: if the latter, the western ones are Arizona occidentalis. The debate is the usual one: on the one side is the Collins bunch, where allopatry equals speciation, subspecies are irrelevant, molecular analysis is everything; on the other is the more conservative view. Trying to impose the evolutionary species concept on Linnean species names is problematic, and yet they try. Do taxonomists normally obsess this much about structure?)

Checking my references for glossy snakes and having great fun doing it. Always stimulating to read about a new species. Processing data now; expect a report shortly.

[ 10:03 AM ]

Back from Toronto, where we flogged baby garter and corn snakes at the reptile show on Sunday. To everyone's astonishment, we sold fourteen baby garters. The public response was tremendous, even from those not buying. As is not the case with exotic species, many people have a personal connection with garter snakes � often the snakes they grew up with or were in contact with as children. Only one or two people were surprised at the price � but, if I have anything to say about it, the days of the eight-dollar wild-caught garter snake are numbered.

Our profits from this enterprise were quickly swallowed up, and then some, by our new acquisitions. I bought a pair of Great Basin gopher snakes (Pituophis catenifer deserticola), which should breed next year: these are members of the Pituophis complex (bullsnakes, pine snakes, gopher snakes) that stay relatively small, so they're ideal for us. Also a small (neonate or juvenile) glossy snake (Arizona elegans), the exact sex and subspecies of which I will have to figure out: glossies have been on my list for a while as overlooked North American snakes that are nevertheless easy to care for; this one looks pretty cute, too. And a baby female western hognose snake (Heterodon nasicus) from Roy. Florence weakened and bought another Everglades rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta rossalleni), this one a hypomelanistic that will grow up gorgeous, from Jeff and Jenny.

Friday, September 14, 2001

[ 2:04 PM ]

CBC news reports that over 75,000 people were on Parliament Hill for the memorial service. I was one of them. I'm not used to crowds; the number of people streaming onto the Hill, all at once, astounded me. (On a pettier note, the fact that so many of them walked with lit cigarettes in their hands � in a typically Ottawan Pavlovian conditioning, where being outside compels them to light up � polluted my airspace and pissed me off.) I managed to stand during the hour I was there, though uncomfortably; I wept a lot, and wished for stronger language. I wasn't alone in the weeping, and one person nearby held up his or her hand in the Churchillian V-for-victory salute throughout the ceremony. There is a berserker rage bubbling to the surface of the people of this continent, and I sensed it in this unanimous crowd.

[ 8:58 AM ]

Il Coppardo reports that he has discovered, on Pearl Harbor Attacked, that Yamamoto never said "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." That was from Tora! Tora! Tora! Instead, he said, "Nekubi o kaite was ikenai" (It does not do to slit the throat of a sleeping man), which, according to the report, has more to do with offending samurai tradition than pissing off the Yanks. Figures. All columnists who quoted the movie are pseuds, less erudite than they want to admit.

Thursday, September 13, 2001

[ 9:13 PM ]

I've been trying to figure out the right quotation for the moment. So have a lot of others, apparently.

The unreality of the situation may help explain to myself why so many pop-culture references leap to my mind, from Bugs Bunny ("Of course you know, this means war!") to Zero Wing ("What happen?" "Somebody set us up the bomb"). Absurdities. It's making me punchy.

Dickheads have quoted a Nostradamus prophecy that turns out to be a phony Nostradamus prophecy. (Is that like a fake fake Rolex?) Several columnists quoted Admiral Yamamoto, who, after Pearl Harbor, is reported to have said something like this: "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." I've read several different versions of this � translations? � and yet, when I asked my father, whose library on such matters is impeccable, to trace down an accurate version, he reported that he consulted three different sources and couldn't find it. Maybe they're quoting the movie instead, and confusing it with reality.

Maybe popular culture is the only way we can relate to and cope with this mess. History is beyond so many of us; so many of us are, blessedly, too young to know what War is like (though the knots in my stomach on Tuesday morning could not have been different from the sick feelings of many on December 7, 1941 � and it took this event to know just how awful Pearl Harbor must have felt). I'm supposed to be a trained historian, or at least I was one once, and still I keep thinking of movies.

So instead of finding the right Biblical passage, I think of Jules's riff on Ezekiel 25:17 in Pulp Fiction, which seems to me to have just the right tone of righteous, vengeful, Old-Testament outrage. Except that it's not the passage itself, as I discovered, but an embellishment on it. The Tarantino version better reflects my own mood, viz., get medieval on the asses of those motherfuckers. Besides, I'm an atheist.

Someone on Slate's message boards posted a poem by W. H. Auden, "September 1, 1939", which is startlingly apropos:

As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade;
Waves and anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.
Nevertheless, history does not repeat itself � at least not in the facile way people think when they say it does, or when they quote Santayana. At least no one is quoting Santayana.

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

[ 7:20 PM ]

I'm behind on my blog entries, and was hoping to spend some time yesterday catching up here. But you know what happened.

I wasn't tuned to CNN when it happened. The first airline strike hit while Florence and I were walking to work via a bakery, to enjoy fresh croissants for breakfast on the way to work. The second occurred shortly before I arrived at my building. Unbeknownst to me, PSAC had called a one-day strike and was blocking virtually every entrance. I was making multiple cellphone calls to various supervisory types, trying to find an alternate entrance without having to wait an hour in line. Preoccupied, I was dimly aware of large crowds watching something on CNN in the food court of Tower C, but the strike was foremost in my mind.

By the time I received directions to that alternate entrance and was inside the building, I was aware, somewhat dimly, that something was up. I tried getting more information from my desk via the web but the news sites were universally jammed. Oddly enough, I got most of what I needed from this thread on Metafilter. Florence and I compared notes by phone. The posts were brief and laconic but let me know exactly what was happening. Of course the net was a mess, and Transport Canada officials ran around the building telling people not to access the net. What else could we do at a time like this? What did they expect from us? Meanwhile, the PSAC demonstration continued below (it's no surprise that the day-long protest got absolutely zero coverage today; what were they thinking, trying to continue?); the bass line of their music made me jump. Remember, at this point we had no idea of the scope of what was happening. How many attacks had there been? How many were still to come? Was a jetliner coming to Ottawa? I was suddenly aware that I was in the tallest office building in the city.

Florence attended a security meeting at eleven; I went down to the seventeenth floor, where I had heard a television had been set up, to check the news and ask if I could work from home. The television was set up in the main boardroom. Several lawyers were already inside. Petey Mansbridge was already live on CBC � no surprise there, he's good at this sort of thing. The number of workers at the World Trade Center, which I already knew, was mentioned. Fifty thousand. Gasps. A rumor that the FAA had lost track of an unknown number of airplanes. No one knew what that meant, Petey said. "I do," I said aloud. We believed there were more attacks to come; we didn't know where.

Someone mentioned that the Israeli embassy at the Clarica Centre had been evacuated. I suddenly remembered that Florence worked in the same building. I had my cellphone with me; I called her immediately and left a message. She only got the first two words � "get out". She called back and said it was up to employees to go home if they felt uncomfortable. I basically ordered her to get out of there as soon as possible. (Security's position in that building is to respond once a threat was received, but the hijackers gave no warning.) While I was on the phone, Helen came into the boardroom and ordered the entire regulations unit to evacuate.

As I said, at the time we didn't know the scope of what was happening, and we felt vulnerable. We were also, to be sure, too preoccupied to do any work. So I gathered my files � not that I could work on them yesterday afternoon � gathered Florence, made some calls to immediate family members (which in hindsight seems like overkill, but it didn't at the time), and went home, where we felt safer. Airliners wouldn't target a two-storey, six-unit walkup.

I watched the news until the OARA meeting last night, and I only decided at the last minute to go to that.

Sunday, September 02, 2001

[ 5:05 PM ]

Hiked the Bow Glacier Falls trail yesterday. It was in one of the few areas that wasn't under a bear wearning and it was blessedly easy � around five kilometres in, with only 95 metres of vertical � so it was a natural choice. Nearly didn't happen: I woke up in pain again yesterday. But I improved enough that I could hike it without too much difficulty. Then once I got back home my hip flared up again, very badly, making my evening quite difficult. How I managed to hike I have no idea. Another oddity is that we were rained on throughout the hike. In spite of a province-wide drought, it began raining the moment we arrived. By the time we headed home, the rain had extended itself to the foothills. Didn't even come close to Calgary, though.

The trail itself was in less than prime shape and very little used. And less flat than I had expected � the vertical bits were rather concentrated. Most of the traffic seemed to be alpinists going to and from the Wapta Icefield, and in particular Bow Hut. It was windy, particularly on the final exposed kilometre in the basin of the falls itself. But the waterfalls along the river were very interesting, and Geoff and Shannon took many interesting puppy pictures. And, in spite of the grayness, we were treated to some really good views of the nearby glaciers.

[ 4:41 PM ]

All wound up right now. A friend berated me for a post I had made on the ottawaherps mailing list advising members that they should refrain from responding to posted advertisements generally. She took it personally and accused me of chastising her in front of everyone. She also accused me of hypocrisy, since I had responded publicly to another post. Unfortunately, she picked a rather bad time to do so: I've been in considerable pain and morose if not outright depressed in the past few days � feeling isolated while on vacation here in Calgary, had a fight with Flo over the phone � so my response was swift, merciless and cruel. I've thrown her off the list and banned her from rejoining, and I've probably lost a friend because of this. I don't take criticism well, not when I'm already suffering.